The biggest vaccine rollout in history is underway. More than 192 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs have been administered so far in the US (as of April 14, 2021), and the campaign is only gaining momentum. After what most dubbed as the worst year in recent memory, there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the scientific community’s gallant efforts in late 2020, many Americans didn’t expect a lot from 2021. If anything, most of us envisioned a more profound health and economic crisis, characterized by rising death tolls and mass unemployment.
Four months into the year, and it isn’t all doom and gloom. More and more COVID-19 vaccines are finding their way to the market. Moderna. Pfizer-BioNTech. Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen. These are just a few of the many vaccines that bear the sign of hope for millions in the US and across the world.
Now the question on everyone’s lips is: Do COVID-19 vaccines hold the key to faster economic recovery, or is it just false hope? This blog covers all the angles of this delicate yet important topic. Read on to learn more.
Numbers Don’t Lie
- According to a new report by the Eurasia Group, global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is estimated to generate economic benefits of at least $153 billion in 2020-2021 in 10 major economies (the United States included). This figure is expected to hit the $466 billion mark by 2025.
- The World Bank projects the global economy to grow by a 4% margin in 2021.
- In its April’s World Economic Outlook press briefing, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) oozed confidence and optimism, pointing out that global economic growth is projected to grow by 6% in 2021. Compared to their January forecast, the IMF projected a stronger economic recovery in the second quarter and beyond.
- In an exclusive report on March 17, 2021, the US Federal Reserve said that the economy is headed for its strongest growth in nearly four decades.
Going by these elaborate statistics, is it by coincidence that the US economy is set to grow in 2021 amid the global pandemic’s ravaging effects? We don’t think so.
If anything, the recent breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccines has got everything to do with the ongoing optimism surrounding economic recovery. These jabs are the ultimate silver lining in what would otherwise have been a catastrophic 2021, at least from an economic standpoint.
But There’s Need For Speed
Despite all vaccine buzz, the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has been quick to warn that faster economic recovery can only be achieved if the rollout is faster and more targeted.
Let’s put this into perspective. On average, only 3.4 million COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in a day in the US. That’s not to forget that it requires two or more jabs to be fully vaccinated against the scourge.
Going by the current pace and given that only 22.3 percent of the country’s population (74, 066, 085 people) has been fully vaccinated so far, it would take months to see a significant level of nationwide immunity. And until then, the larger part of the population remains prone to COVID-19, which means reduced or lagging economic output.
But there’s hope. According to the December OECD Economic Outlook, world economic output is projected to hit pre-COVID levels by mid-2021. However, it all depends on how fast the vaccination of people across the US is happening. More jabs translate to more jobs, higher real GDP, and a more focused working population. All these are recipes for a fast-paced economic recovery.
Careful Not To Jinx It
It might seem like all our ducks are in a row, but if we are not careful with how we contain the virus and administer vaccines, we might be back to level zero—back to the drawing board.
A downside scenario to the entire vaccination debate still exists. If COVID-19 infections continue to rise and the rollout of vaccines is delayed or hits a dead end, the global economic expansion could be limited to just 1.6% in 2021. This could be bad news for the United States in particular, given that some people are still reeling (or healing) from the rather chaotic November 7, 2020 elections.
Meanwhile, the emergence of deadlier, more transmissible variants of the virus means that cases will likely continue to surge. While doubling the pace of vaccinations to 3 million per day would prevent a total of about 2 million cases in 2021 (says PWBM), there’s a need to be extra careful in the rollout process. Only proven vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech should be administered to the working population. Any slip-ups in the vaccination campaign could bring the country’s economic recovery process to a grinding, frustrating halt.
A Tale Of Two Haves
Everyone expects a smooth ride for the US economy this year as the COVID-19 vaccination campaign intensifies and the government weighs in to supercharge the economy. But we believe the recovery process will unfold in two phases.
From April to July, we anticipate a gradual economic bounce-back as more and more Americans get the COVID-19 jabs. In this 3-month period, we expect no less than 75% of the population to be vaccinated if the current pace is anything to go by. Gyms, restaurants, and other previously restricted economies will slowly but steadily return to normalcy.
The economy should then enter a period of normalization in the months leading up to December. However, this firmly depends on the number of workers that will find jobs in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. If most of them don’t find work, then the economy will sink into a K-shaped recovery. Here, we’re likely to see two groups of employees: lower-paid laborers who are struggling to make ends meet and higher-paid workers who are withering the downturn. This situation will possibly extend into the first quarter of 2021 as the economy tries even harder to stabilize.
That said, we still believe that with faster, more intentional vaccine administration, we can say hello to a V-shaped recovery from both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Eyes On The Prize: How To Administer COVID-19 Jabs The Right Way
Now, let’s cut the chase and talk about what we should be doing to ensure the COVID-19 vaccination process is devoid of delays and inconsistencies.
1. Strengthen vaccination infrastructure
Virtually every state in the US will have to expand and strengthen its current vaccination infrastructure. After all, no one anticipated a pandemic of this magnitude, let alone a vaccination campaign like the one we’re indulged in right now.
A reinforced vaccination infrastructure will ensure that states are able to transport, store, administer, and track COVID-19 vaccines without any hassle. This also eliminates the possibility of disruptions to routine immunization programs, especially those involving infants.
States also need to strengthen vaccine storage facilities, quality assurance, and distribution channels. The same goes for computer and information systems required to keep track of every single COVID-19 jab that has been administered, particularly in the case of multi-jab vaccines.
2. Come up with a sound vaccine execution/delivery plan
Once states across the country get hold of COVID-19 vaccines, they’ll need to figure out how to distribute them evenly and broadly.
While it’s easy to assume that the pandemic has mainly affected major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, the truth is that even those in remote areas have been adversely hit by the scourge. Therefore, delivery plans should include how health departments will disseminate and track COVID-19 jabs to both suburb and hard-to-reach populations.
Vaccine execution plans should also recommend innovative distribution strategies. This might include designating multiple distribution points in densely populated communities (i.e., in drive-through sites, parking lots, schools, pharmacies, prisons, military bases, workplaces, etc.)
3. Sensitize communities to improve vaccine uptake
According to a recent NPR survey, one in four Americans says they won’t get a coronavirus vaccine. Given that some of these reluctant individuals are productive members of society, it will be difficult for the economy to recover at this rate.
That’s why there’s a need to educate the public about the importance of Coronavirus vaccination. This goes a long way in increasing their confidence and willingness to take the jabs.
Clear, concise expectations should also be put out to the public regarding who has been prioritized in the vaccination process and why.
Above everything else, clear communication strategies and advocacy are essential to the protection of public health.
The US can no longer sit on its laurels as far as COVID-19 vaccination is concerned. At this point in time, the economy is hanging by the balance, and the only way to keep it from plunging deeper into crisis is to facilitate the administration of Coronavirus vaccines across the country. While it appears like the early rounds are going on undisturbed, there needs to be more targeted, more intentional, and certainly faster administration of jabs. All in all, the future looks bright, and it’s only a matter of time before our health and economic sectors find their feet again.
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